Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic has sent a blunt message to his players: name and reputation does not guarantee a spot in his team.
Popovic is likely to name an unchanged side for tomorrow night’s A-League clash with Brisbane Roar at nib Stadium after the last-gasp 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory last Sunday.
Marquee signing Diego Castro will miss his third match with a hamstring problem, while Popovic said former Socceroos defender Matt Spiranovic must get ahead of other players before coming into contention.
Popovic said Castro was “tracking well”, but stressed he would be the sole decision maker on his return.
“When he’s ready it will be up to me whether he plays or not. It will always be me,” he said.
Spiranovic has not played for 12 months since his last appearance for Chinese club Hangzhou Greentown. He had hip surgery earlier this year.
“He’s in the extended squad,” Popovic said. “Obviously he has to tick some boxes in training.
“He needs to get ahead of some other players.
“You just don’t get fit and go into the team. It’s not just about selection and taking someone’s spot. For him it’s a lot about that he’s ready to play and then be able to back up again.
“We have to make some decisions on the team, but also for the wellbeing of Matty.”
Striker Brendon Santalab (hamstring) could make his Glory league debut tomorrow night and fellow forward Chris Harold (chickenpox) is also a chance to play his first game of the year. Both are likely to be named on the bench.
Meanwhile, striker Andy Keogh, who has scored in both games this season, is benefiting from the new Popovic style.
“The way our defence pushes up and squeezes the space allows me not to have to drop back so deep,” Keogh said.
I’m very comfortable knowing I’m going to get chances.”